Making its first-ever appearance in a Sac-Joaquin Section title game, Central Valley's third-seeded varsity girls soccer team had to settle for runner-up honors after being edged out 1-0 by No. 4 Woodland on Saturday at Cosumnes Oaks High School.
Wolf players celebrated while being presented the highly-coveted blue Division-III championship banner.
Hawk players understandably had trouble containing their emotions during the postgame ceremony.
"The girls are heartbroken," head coach Miguel Larranaga said. "I feel the same way. Obviously, we're not happy with the result. But we had a great season."
"It's hard to watch them get what we wanted," senior goalkeeper Emely Lopez said. "We're all pretty bummed. We were so close. We came up short."
Central Valley amassed a program-best 21-2-2 overall record this winter.
The Hawks also accomplished another first by winning their third consecutive Western Athletic Conference crown. Central Valley collected nine wins, one loss and no ties.
The Hawks participated in the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.
The Wolves went 19-1-5 and tied for first in the Tri County Conference (9-1-2).
"They should be proud of what they've done this year," Larranaga said. "They made history. They made it to the finals. It's not easy to get here. All the teams you play want the same thing."
Lopez made six saves during Central Valley's loss to Woodland in the finals.
The Hawks had several scoring chances in the final 15 minutes as Jocelyn Lopez and Jocelyn Rodriguez just missed finishing from close-range.
Jocelyn Lopez's shot sailed over the crossbar.
"If we would have gone to penalty kicks in the finals, we would have won," Emely Lopez said. "We practice them all the time. We're not scared."
"It thought we were going to win," Larranaga said. "I can't believe we lost. It just wasn't our day. We didn't play the way we normally play. We had scoring opportunities. We couldn't put one in."
Woodland ended Central Valley's unprecedented run in the playoffs.
"One team had to lose," Larranaga said. "Unfortunately, it was our team."
"It was a pretty difficult path," Emely Lopez said. "We played the hardest teams."
The Hawks punched their ticket to the section championship game by upsetting No. 3 Sierra 5-4 in penalty kicks during their semifinal matchup on Wednesday in Manteca.
"It was amazing to watch," Larranaga said.
Mixtly Vega made the deciding PK.
Sierra's Jasmine Loaiza almost forced a sixth round in the shootout. The ball bounced off the right post.
Jocelyn Rodriguez, Jocelyn Lopez, Abigail Martinez and Mariana Garibay all had successful penalty-kick attempts for Central Valley.
"To be honest with you, I was confident," Larranaga said. "But I knew it could go either way. Our team was a little better."
"We play better under that kind of pressure," said Emely Lopez, whose team won four times by penalty kicks this season. "We've been there before."
Central Valley fell behind 1-0 in the 54th minute of regulation when Sierra's Jadyn Shinn blasted an 18-yard shot past Emely Lopez.
The Hawks evened the score eight minutes later. Jocelyn Lopez converted a penalty kick after Michelle Jimenez drew a foul in the box. Jimenez was battling for position with Sierra's Julissa Pimentel.
Central Valley topped No. 6 Vista del Lago 4-2 in PKs on Feb. 23 in Ceres.
The host Hawks earned a hard-fought 1-0 victory over No. 14 Pioneer on Feb. 21.
"It's tough to get to this point," Larranaga said. "It's not an easy road. It takes a lot of work. The girls should be proud of themselves."
Central Valley will lose four players to graduation, including Garibay, Emely Lopez, Guadalupe Gomez and Laiza Quintero.
"It's going to be hard to replace the girls we're losing," Larranaga said. "Hopefully, we can get to the finals again next year and win it. We have the talent."
"I'm not content with the ending," Emely Lopez said. "But I'm happy with how far we've come. It's the first time we've made it to the section finals. It feels good to make history."
Manteca Bulletin Sports Editor Jonamar Jacinto contributed to this report.